147 F.3d 915 (9th Cir. 1998), 96-56565, Batchelder v. Kawamoto

Docket Nº:96-56565.
Citation:147 F.3d 915
Party Name:, 98 Cal. Daily Op. Serv. 4570, 98 Daily Journal D.A.R. 6279, 98 Daily Journal D.A.R. 7743 Harry C. BATCHELDER, Jr., Individually and Derivatively On Behalf of Honda Motor Company, Ltd. and American Honda Motor Company, Inc., Plaintiff-Appellant, v. Nobuhiko KAWAMOTO, Yoshihide Munekuni, Hiroyuki Yoshino, Nobuyki Miyata, Koichi Amemiya, Masaki Iwai
Case Date:June 15, 1998
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
 
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Page 915

147 F.3d 915 (9th Cir. 1998)

, 98 Cal. Daily Op. Serv. 4570,

98 Daily Journal D.A.R. 6279,

98 Daily Journal D.A.R. 7743

Harry C. BATCHELDER, Jr., Individually and Derivatively On

Behalf of Honda Motor Company, Ltd. and American

Honda Motor Company, Inc., Plaintiff-Appellant,

v.

Nobuhiko KAWAMOTO, Yoshihide Munekuni, Hiroyuki Yoshino,

Nobuyki Miyata, Koichi Amemiya, Masaki Iwai, Hiroyuki

Shimojima, Takashi Matsuda, Koji Nagata, Takeshi Yamada,

Tomohiko Nakano, Makoto Shino, Riku Iwai, Yoshino Okawara,

Kazuo Ibuki, Tadashi Kume, Takeo Fukui, Ryuichi Tsukamoto,

Katsuro Suzuki, Michiaki Shinkai, Michiyoshi Hagino, Shinya

Iwakura, Isao Suzuki, Kazue Ito, Kunhiro Chujo, Kentaro

Kato, Kaname Kasai, Kensuke Fukatsu, Takeo Matsumoto,

Hirotada Komatsu, Yuji Sakasume, Motoatsu Shiraishi, Minoru

Harada, Satoshi Aoko, Atsuyoshi Hyogo, Dennis Josleyn,

Stanley James Cardiges, Gary D. Josleyn, David Pedersen,

Roger Novelly, Robert A. Massitelli, Frederick W. Meis, Jr.,

Edward A. Temple, Thomas A. Caufield, Frank Pisano, Beatrice

Sikora, James Short, John W. Billmyer, Lyon & Lyon, and

Roland NMI Smoot, Defendants-Appellees.

No. 96-56565.

United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit

June 15, 1998

Argued and Submitted April 7, 1998.

As Amended July 15, 1998.

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Henry H. Rossbacher (argued), James S. Cahill, Rossbacher & Associates, Los Angeles, CA, William A. Lerach, Spencer A. Burkholz, Milberg, Weiss, Bershad, Hynes & Lerach LLP, San Diego, CA, Kevin P. Roddy, Los Angeles, CA, Jonathan W. Cuneo, The Cuneo Law Group, Washington, DC, for plaintiff-appellant Harry C. Batchelder, Jr.

Kent L. Richland (argued), Robin Meadow, Alan Diamond, Greines, Martin, Stein & Richland LLP, Beverly Hills, CA, for defendants-appellees Takeshi Yamada, Takeo Fukui, Koichi Amemiya, and Isao Suzuki.

Sarah Chapin Columbia (argued), Jeremiah T. O'Sullivan, Choate, Hall & Stewart, Boston, MA, J. Michael Hennigan, Robert Palmer, Pamala J. King, Hennigan, Mercer & Bennett, Los Angeles, CA, for defendants Lyon & Lyon and Roland Smoot.

Richard A. Cirillo, Herbert S. Washer, Rogers & Wells, New York City, Allan E. Ceran, Rogers & Wells, Los Angeles, CA, Dan Kiefer, Mark Brooks, Honda North America, Torrance CA, for American Honda Motor, Co., Inc.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Central District of California; Ronald S.W. Lew, District Judge, Presiding. D.C. No. CV-96-1291-RSWL.

Before: FARRIS, O'SCANNLAIN, and FERNANDEZ, Circuit Judges.

O'SCANNLAIN, Circuit Judge:

We must decide whether the holder of an American Depository Receipt has standing to bring a shareholder derivative action against a Japanese corporation.

I

This is a derivative action brought by Harry C. Batchelder, Jr. on behalf of Honda Motor Company, Ltd. ("Honda Japan") and American Honda Motor Company, Inc. ("American Honda") for wrongs allegedly committed by directors, officers, and employees of Honda Japan and American Honda (the "Director Defendants"), and by certain third parties, including Lyon & Lyon and Roland Smoot (collectively, "Lyon & Lyon"). Honda Japan was incorporated under the laws of Japan. It is the sole shareholder of American Honda, a California corporation.

Harry C. Batchelder, Jr. alleges that at all times relevant to this case he owned 1,246 American Depository Receipts ("ADRs"),

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each of which reflects ownership of ten shares of stock in Honda Japan. The ADRs are issued by the depository, Morgan Guaranty Trust Company of New York. Batchelder purchased his ADRs under the terms and conditions of a deposit agreement ("Deposit Agreement") with Honda Japan and Morgan Guaranty. Batchelder alleges that the directors of both Honda Japan and American Honda breached their fiduciary duties by failing adequately to protect the companies from harm caused by the actions of certain American Honda employees who were involved in a bribery and kickback scheme. Batchelder also purports to bring suit against the law firm of Lyon & Lyon, American Honda's former general counsel, and two of its partners, Roland Smoot and James Short, who, Batchelder claims, assisted in "covering up" the fraudulent scheme. Batchelder has asserted "shareholder" derivative claims for breach of duty, waste of corporate assets, abuse of control, constructive fraud, mismanagement, and dissemination of false and misleading proxy statements in violation of 15 U.S.C. § 78n(a).

Following the Director Defendants' motion to dismiss, the district court entered a scheduling order staying all discovery in the case pending its resolution. Thereafter, American Honda and Lyon & Lyon also filed motions to dismiss on numerous grounds. Following a hearing, the district court dismissed Batchelder's complaint with prejudice. The district court ruled that Batchelder's complaint failed as a matter of law because, inter alia: (1) based on the Deposit Agreement, Batchelder's standing to bring a derivative action must be determined under Japanese law; (2) under Japanese law, Batchelder is not a shareholder and therefore lacks standing to bring a derivative action on behalf of Honda Japan; and (3) even if Batchelder could assert the rights of a shareholder of Honda Japan, his action would still fail as against American Honda and Lyon & Lyon because Japanese law recognizes neither "double derivative" 1 actions nor actions against third parties.

Batchelder timely appealed.

II

Batchelder maintains that the district court erred in holding that he lacks standing to bring a shareholder derivative action on behalf of Honda Japan and American Honda. According to Batchelder, the district court erroneously held that his "standing and his right to bring a derivative action ... must be determined under Japanese law," and wrongly concluded that, as an owner of Honda Japan ADRs, he "is not a shareholder and lacks standing to bring a derivative action on behalf of Honda ... under governing Japanese law." Batchelder contends that whereas Japanese law provides the substantive law to adjudicate his claims against the Director Defendants, it does not control his standing to bring California and federal claims on behalf of Honda Japan and American Honda. According to Batchelder, the district court must perform "the requisite conflicts of law analysis" to determine what law governs his right to bring a derivative suit. Batchelder contends that either Fed.R.Civ.P. 23.1 ("Derivative Actions by Shareholders") or Cal. Corp.Code § 800 ("Shareholder Derivative Actions") provides the standing requirements for his claim, not Japanese law.

A

Batchelder's right to bring derivative claims on behalf of Honda Japan and American Honda is indeed governed by Japanese law. Batchelder purchased his ADRs pursuant to the Deposit Agreement, which expressly provides that the law of Japan governs shareholder rights. Section 7.07 of the Deposit Agreement, entitled "Governing Law," states:

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This Deposit Agreement and the [American Depository] Receipts and all rights hereunder and thereunder and provisions hereof and thereof shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of the State of New York, United States of America. It is understood that notwithstanding any present or future provision of the laws of the State of New York, the rights of holders of Stock and other Deposited Securities, and the duties and obligations of the Company in respect of such holders, as such, shall be governed by the laws of Japan.

(emphasis added). The first sentence of § 7.07 provides that contract rights contained in the Deposit Agreement itself or in the ADR certificates, as well as the construction of the Deposit Agreement, are to be governed by the laws of New York. The second sentence of § 7.07, however, explicitly provides that Japanese law governs shareholder rights and the rights of holders of other Deposited Securities, including ADRs. Thus, if an ADR holder seeks to assert a right belonging to shareholders or a right not specifically granted to ADR holders in the Deposit Agreement, the laws of Japan apply. Section 7.07 is simply a choice-of-law clause.

1

We analyze the validity of choice-of-law clauses under The Bremen v. Zapata Off-Shore Co., 407 U.S. 1, 92 S.Ct. 1907, 32 L.Ed.2d 513 (1972), in which the Supreme Court stated that courts should enforce choice-of-law and choice-of-forum clauses in cases of "freely negotiated private international agreements." Id. at 12-13, 92 S.Ct. 1907; see also Richards v. Lloyd's of London, 135 F.3d 1289, 1293 (9th Cir.1998) (en banc). There is every reason to believe that the Depository Agreement was such an agreement. See American Depository Receipts, Securities Act of 1933, Exchange Act Release Nos. 33-6984, 34-29226 (May 23, 1991) ("[T]he deposit agreement constitutes the contract between the issuer of the deposited securities, the depository and the holders of ADRs. ADR holders are deemed to have agreed to all terms in the deposit agreement by their acceptance and holding of ADRs."). Contractual choice-of-law clauses are routinely enforced, particularly when the country whose law is selected has some nexus with the action. See Northrop Corp. v. Triad Int'l Marketing S.A., 811 F.2d 1265, 1270 (9th Cir.1987) ("[C]hoice-of-law and choice-of-forum provisions in international commercial contracts are 'an almost indispensable precondition to achievement of the orderliness and predictability essential to any international business transaction,' and should be enforced absent strong reasons to set them aside.") (quoting Scherk v. Alberto-Culver Co., 417 U.S. 506, 516-20, 94 S.Ct. 2449, 41 L.Ed.2d 270 (1974)); see also Marine Midland Bank, N.A. v. United Missouri Bank, N.A., 223...

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